F ORMER Khmer Rouge commander Colonel Chhouk Rin will use five KR defectors to pinpoint
and clear an estimated 9,000 landmines around Phnom Voar.
Phnom Voar, in Kampot province, became the focal point of international attention
last year when three Western tourists were kidnapped by Rin - who later defected
- and eventually murdered at the rebel stronghold.
The drive to clear Phnom Voar of mines, something unthinkable a year ago before defections
and a concerted government offensive to clear the area of KR, will be led by the
Cambodian Mine Action Center (CMAC).
Around 180 Cambodian deminers, or six platoons, has begun clearing the 40 hectare
area. Rin is a key player. "The clearing operation will not take long. [Five
defectors] will pinpoint where the mines are... they know very well where the mines
were laid," he said. Rin put the number of mines at around 9,000, Chinese and
Russian-made, which had been laid since around 1981.
CMAC director Ieng Mouly officially launched the project on Oct 6, some eight kilometers
from where the three Westerners, David Wilson, Jean-Michel Braquet and Mark Slater,
had been killed.
The land, once cleared, will be settled by about 230 families of defectors, whom
authorities hope could grow pepper crops.